Declutter First, Organize Second

Organizing tipTo declutter is to remove mess, piles, and clutter. To organize is to mindfully place things in a specific spot in order to find them when they are needed.  If we attempt to organize before we declutter we waste time organizing things we no longer use or want. It is always more efficient to declutter first, and organize second.


Keep up with Change

Organizing tip

Change is sure to happen. Keeping up with change requires making decisions and taking action. If we neglect this, clutter builds. As clutter builds, accumulated amounts become overwhelming and more decisions need to be made. As time passes action becomes more difficult to take. So keep up with change to stay clutter-free and organized.

clutter-free desk

Clutter-free Surfaces

Organizing tipIf you took a photo of all the flat surfaces in your home right now what would they look like? Are they cluttered with a bunch of stuff? Can you prepare a meal on your kitchen counter? What would you have to clear off in order to eat dinner on your dinning room table? How many piles of paper do you have on your desk? Can you see the surface top of your bathroom vanity? Is there any available space on top of your dresser, coffee table, night stand, end table? Here are 5 tips to help you create and keep clutter-free surfaces.

  1. Scan and empty surface areas each day in order to prevent clutter build-up.
  2. Clutter-free means that there is some available, usable space. Therefore clear off an 18 x 18 inch area of space on your work desk each night.
  3. Uses these flat surfaces as temporary activity areas.
  4. Limit yourself to 3-5 permanent items per surface area.
  5. Don’t use surfaces as storage areas. Have a place for everything and put it in it’s place.


clutter in basement

Keep Clutter at Bay

10 years in business
in 2018!

I’m happy to be celebrating 10 years in business
, but I wouldn’t be in business if it wasn’t for my sister. She was looking for a new job in 2007 when I was, and that is when we decided to attend a NAPO New England meeting. After that meeting I knew I wanted to start my own business and become a Professional Organizer. My sister decided to pursue a different direction, but if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Thanks sis! I owe it all to you!  

Recent Blog Articles:

Downsizing Action Plan

Organizing Small Spaces

Why We Hold Onto Things?

Innies or Outies

Question:  Do you change your wardrobe in the spring and pack away your winter clothes? If so, do you spend time removing items you didn’t wear or don’t wish to hold onto until next winter?  Please share.
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Hi  Janine,

      I’m amazed each year at the colorful  transformation spring brings from brown and drab to green and lush. It motivates me to transform my home into something lighter and brighter. What about you? Do you get motivated to make changes and improvements to your home? Do you get motivated to organize and declutter?

Here are 10 things I do to keep clutter at bay.

  1. Have a do-it-now attitude. I do my best to make decisions and take action in a timely manner. This helps prevent piles from starting and growing.
  2. Make bed every morning. This small act helps me jump start my day creating order.
  3. Have a morning and evening routine, and include activities essential to health and well-being. These routines allow me to start and end my day with calm focus. Two activities included in my morning routine are eating breakfast and meditating. Two activities included in my evening routine are preparing for the next day by reviewing my calendar and planning my outfit.
  4. Have a place for everything and put everything in it’s place. If you struggle with this, I recommend establishing a home for important items that you use daily, for example, wallet, keys, pocketbook, and toiletries.
  5. Have a return-home-routine. I allow myself time to put things away each time I enter my house. This prevents me from littering my entryway with piles of clutter and facilitates an organized home.
  6. Process mail daily. If you struggle with this, I recommend that you collect all incoming mail into a specific container and pick two days a week to processed what is in the container.
  7. Use personal daily calendar that keeps track of important actions that need to get done. A calendar is a great tool for keeping appointments and remembering birthdays, but I find it’s real value is prompting me to take action on tasks and projects.
  8. Use weekly tickler files. I use pocket folders to collect notes and papers that would otherwise be all over the place. The system I created for myself is one folder for the current week, two folders for the following two weeks, and a folder for anything beyond 3 weeks. I schedule time on Sunday night or Monday morning to organize all 4 folders.
  9. Use a donation box. This is a box that holds what I wish to get rid of until I can drop it off for donation. This box performs the important task of helping me separate what I don’t want from what I’m currently using.
  10. Spend time every day reclaiming order.

Shredding Resources

Now that tax season is over it’s a great time to shred all the old papers and files you don’t need. If you’d like a list of how long to hold onto a particular papers visit or

Here are 2 shredding options for you:

  1. Mansfield Shredding Services – They are a non-profit organization located in Mansfield, MA, that has pick-up and walk-in services. They offer a certificate of destruction. 508-618-4222
  2. Shred ‘N’ Go – They are located in Johnston, RI and have pick-up and walk-in services. They offer a certificate of destruction. 401-943-0522

Janine Cavanaugh, CPO®
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If you’ve worked with me in any capacity, I’d be grateful for a review.  Simply click on this link and answer 3 questions.  Thank you and happy organizing!

What is Clutter?

Helpful Organizer BlogI was very fortunate to have the opportunity to give a presentation on Conquering Clutter with Confidence at the 2018 Conference for NERSC (New England Resident Service Coordinators). I was excited to share my knowledge and expertise with this group. I started my presentation with the question, What is clutter? I shared the dictionary definition and my definition.

  • Dictionary definition: To litter or pile in a disordered manner; A confused or disordered state or collection; A disorderly heap or assemblageclutter
  • My definition: Clutter is a jumbled mess of miscellaneous stuff that has accumulated as a result of indecision and inaction.

After explaining my definition I was ready to move on, but was stopped with a few questions. One was, “What is the difference between hoarding and clutter and when is the line crossed?” I explained about the clutter-hoarding scale which is a tool used specifically for this purpose, and there is an image rating that is helpful to view. I also mentioned that I do not have the skill set to work with level 4 or 5 hoarders because the situation calls for more intervention and support than I can provide.

A second question was, “I have 3 sets of Christmas dishes, and my husband calls them clutter; are they?” To answer this I had to ask a few clarifying questions. Are the dishes scattered about in a jumbled mess? Her answer was no. Are they being used and serving a specific purpose? Her answer was yes. Are they causing you stress or frustration? Her answer was no for me, but yes for my husband. I told her that in my opinion, based on her answers to my questions, her Christmas dishes were not clutter. She gave an excited yelp and said she couldn’t wait to tell her husband. However, I was compelled to add that 3 sets of Christmas dishes may be a bit excessive, and if her answers to any of the 3 questions changes in the future, then their label would in fact be changed to clutter. I also pointed out that each individual views their own personal possessions differently than another person’s possessions. It is easy to misunderstand the value someone places on their own things. So think twice before tossing out someone’s stuff (“clutter”).

book caseA third question was asked, “What is the difference between a collection and clutter?” The dictionary definition of a collection is a group of objects or works to be seen, studied, or kept together. A collection is a group of items that someone is proud to share and display. Would you be proud to share and display your clutter? A collection holds monetary and sentimental value where as clutter is usually unimportant, random stuff. A collection is intentionally collected, but clutter is a mess that has accumulated as a result of not deciding what to do with things and not taking action with those things.

After thoroughly answering the question, what is clutter we discussed several clutter conquering solutions. Would you like some solutions? They can be found in the following articles.

Keep Clutter at Bay

Reaching the Finish Line

Organizing Small Spaces

©May 2018  Janine Cavanaugh, Certified Professional Organizer®   All Rights Reserved